“As a filmmaker, I’m interested in exploring the dynamics of a relationship. I’m fascinated by what brings people together. I was fortunate to observe the loving relationship that my grandparents share and noticed a comical intimacy about an elderly couple that was an adorable emotion to explore in a short film. So California Dreaming is an opportunity for me to make a film that is thrilling and exciting, but still heartwarming.”
Sahirr Sethi, a film director from Mumbai, has Homegrown intrigued with the latest dramedy he is pursuing. Titled ‘California Dreaming’, he is currently working on it from LA under the tutelage of filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks) and writer/director Akshat Verma, of Delhi Belly fame. Having worked on films such as Life of Pi and the Mission Impossible series in the past, Sahirr has been locking down his place as one of the most promising upcoming indie filmmakers in the country.
His latest venture, he explains, is ‘about a man who wants to get rich to make up for all the unfulfilled promises to his wife, Molly’. John, who has been purchasing a lottery ticket every weekend in the hopes of winning, nagged by his wife for wasting so much money, finally finds his time to shine is here – he finally has the ticket for the multi-million dollar jackpot... when he is accosted by two armed robbers!
Teeming with twists and turns, it is – at its heart – a love story about an elderly couple based on his observations of his grandparents’ relationship, and an exploration of what it really means to be ‘rich’. The film draws its inspiration from the ancient Indian dramatic theory of ‘Nayakshastra’, which speaks of ‘Navarasa’ (the nine emotions, believed to be the basis of all human emotion). The word ‘rasa’ means essence and “denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work.”
These nine emotions / moods are – Sringar (Love / Attractiveness), Hasyam (Laughter / Comedy), Raudram (Fury), Karunyam (Compassion), Bibhatsam (Disgust), Bhayanakam (Terror), Viram (Heroic mood), Adbhutam (Amazement) and Santam (Peace). In keeping with the belief that a complete and wholesome story is one that evokes all of these emotions, the film attempts to do so in a span of a mere ten minutes.
The obstacles they’re facing in production of the film isn’t just limited to a small budget, though. Filming in two schedules, their shooting schedule involves a two-day shoot on a soundstage at UCLA, which involves set-construction for a fantasy sequence, and a five-night shoot on location in a real diner. The latter leaves them with only 7-hour shoot days (instead of the usual 12 hours) between the last customer leaving at night and the first one in the next morning. Adding to the mounting anticipation relating to finishing the film within the budget and given time, they have finished first in Indiewire’s Project of the Week just in time to kick off their second shoot schedule.
A turn-around time of only 10 days leaves them with no room for error, and since their budget doesn’t allow for VFX, the practical effects based film, ‘California Dreaming’ is relying on just the good old magic of picture and sound editing!
Having pooled in his personal savings and also won a scholarship from The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences and the Joseph Drown Foundation, Sahirr is aiming to generate 15000 USD via Kickstarter to make this film see the light of day.
“It’s always tough when someone asks, ‘What kind of films do you want to make?” Sahirr Sethi says in his Director’s Statement. “Because I answer saying, lighthearted dramedys with elements of fantasy that make the audience smile and leave them with something meaningful to think about. California Dreaming is a project that will allow me to do so. It will be the most challenging project I have attempted so far. I am excited because it provides me the opportunity to create a modern day fairy-tale about a bizarre ‘What if…’ situation.”
With a cast including Shelly Kurtz playing John, Johnny Cannizzaro, critically acclaimed theatre actor Jimmy Slonina and Marlene Hamerling of “The Way We Were” and “Slow Jam King,” this is definitely a film to watch out for.
[Check out the trailer and Indiegogo demo here if you’d like to support him.]
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari